ScreenShot2014-01-09at7.57.26PM_crop_northThe Divisional Round of the 2014 NFL Playoffs are set to begin this weekend!

Can the San Francisco 49ers continue their hot run as they face the Carolina Panthers on the road? Are the Indianapolis Colts good enough to upset the Patriots in New England?

Can the San Diego Chargers pull the biggest upset of the season with a win over the Denver Broncos? Can the Seattle Seahawks avoid a loss to the New Orleans Saints at home?

All of this and more as you read on...

(6) New Orleans Saints vs (1) Seattle Seahawks

Screen Shot 2014-01-10 at 10.54.45 AMThe Chinese New Year festivities at the end of the month will usher in the year of the horse, but Seattle's NFL fans are hoping it's the year of the Hawk.

Head coach Pete Carroll keeps coming close and getting to the Super Bowl's front door, but he just can't make it inside with his squad despite the team's amazing efforts in recent years.

Meanwhile, the Saints and future Hall of Famer Drew Brees are having one of the best transitional seasons in team history. Ravaged by "BountyGate" last season, the team is back at full strength this year.

Brees had another career year with 39 touchdowns and over 5,000 yards through the air. The team is in the playoffs with a legitmate chance to win against one of the best teams in the NFL this season.

The Seahawks have a much better backfield anchored by Marshawn Lynch, and Russell Wilson is a much more mobile quarterback than Brees. Where Brees lacks mobility, his coaching staff weaves in passes to the flat and short routes to his backs to take the pressure off him.

Brees will run once in a great while, but never like Wilson runs. The Seattle quarterback averages over five-and-a-half yards per carry and is the team's second-leading rusher behind Lynch. Wilson actually has only ten less yards on the year than the leading rusher for the Saints, Pierre Thomas.

This is really a tough contest to call if Drew Brees plays the game of his life and doesn't have to pull it out by a field goal like his team did last week against Philadelphia. However, just a few mistakes spells the end of playoff days for Brees and his team.

Tune in Saturday at 4:35 p.m. EST on Fox to find out what really happens.

Prediction: The Saints want badly to win this one and have all the tools to pull off the upset of the week. Still, Seattle is almost guaranteed to get this one taken care of. Lynch is stronger than ever, and Wilson is ready for a real statement win. Carroll has toiled in the trenches too long as a coach, and he wants to get his Seahawks to the Super Bowl. The Saints want to get another Super Bowl ring, but it will take a little more rebuilding to get there unless Brees and the offense have a record setting day.

Seahawks win, 31-27

(5) San Francisco 49ers vs (2) Carolina Panthers

Screen Shot 2014-01-10 at 10.57.45 AMColin Kaepernick and Cam Newton are near mirror images of each other when it comes to their scrambling ability, but Newton has 200 more yards through the air and five more touchdowns on the season than Kaepernick has.

Kaepernick emerged as a late-season hero last year, but this year he's been a little more shaky in big games. Last week, he did everything right in the team's final drive to allow for a game-winning field goal, but the 49ers should have been able to beat the Green Bay Packers by a much wider margin.

Instead of going into this contest looking poised, ready and confident, the 49ers appear to be riding a wild streak of luck. Meanwhile, Cam Newton and his Panthers are having the season of a lifetime, waiting to really show the world what they can do in these playoffs.

Carolina is a team that hasn't really been in many discussions about Super Bowl hopes over the years, but this year they can certainly make it there with the kind of effort they are capable of.

Despite the 49ers adding all-star wide receiver Anquan Boldin in the offseason, it is actually Michael Crabtree who is looking more and more comfortable out there on the field in huge moments since returning from an injury that kept him sidelined for multiple weeks of the regular season.

The Panthers have one of their favorite targets looking like he will definitely play through his own injury as Steve Smith plans to be ready to catch whatever Newton throws his way Sunday at 1:05 p.m. in Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina.

This game may actually be just as close as it was the last time when Carolina squeaked out a 10-9 victory. It could really go either way if the real Kaepernick shows up and doesn't end up in a back and forth snoozer like most of last week's game against Green Bay was like.

Prediction: The Carolina Panthers get an early lead and hold onto it. These are not the Green Bay Packers who have never been at full strength this year for long enough to gain any real momentum. The 49ers just can't work their magic against the Panthers, and the Carolina's defense comes up huge in the turnover department. In the battle of Newton vs Kapernick, Cam wins by a landslide.

Panthers win 45-19

(4) Indianapolis Colts vs (2) New England Patriots

Screen Shot 2014-01-10 at 11.02.09 AMThe two teams going into Saturday night's AFC Divisional playoff are both playing without their top receivers. Reggie Wayne is out for the Colts, and tight end Rob Gronkowski is out for New England.

Both teams showed incredible resiliency this year in overcoming these key injuries. T.Y. Hilton emerged for the Colts as a clutch superstar wideout while the rookie receiver corps in New England is stepping up in a big way to fill Gronk's void.

Julian Edelman is no Wes Welker, but he's been built in Welker's image and spent some time as Welker's understudy before the former top Tom Brady target left the team for Denver in the off-season last year.

Edelman averaged just over ten yards per catch this year and caught six of Brady's 25 touchdown passes. He also compiled over a thousand yards on just over a hundred receptions.

Hilton caught 82 passes for 1,083 yards over the course of his season as Reggie Wayne's replacement. Last week against Kansas City, Hilton's efforts were instrumental to the Colts getting back in a game they were losing very badly.

All indications show this game should be very close. If you use common opponent math, the Colts have a real good shot at stunning the Patriots at home.

The Colts beat the Broncos by a little more than the Patriots did this year. The Colts also have a younger and hungrier quarterback while Tom Brady seems to be losing a step as he creeps past his mid-thirties and settles into the tail end of his career.

Still, the Patriots have a coach who can figure out how to beat any team by a field goal. If a playoff could end in a tie, this one would be a great candidate for that to happen.

Prediction: Tom Brady and the Patriots will pull this one out at home and will be able to fend off the Colts comeback attempts this week. New England wins a tactical, strategic game with Tom Brady relying more and more on his backfield as the game goes on. Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, and LeGarrette Blount are all in great health, and all are coming off some extra rest with the bye week. If the run game fires on all cylinders, Brady will have an easy time finding all his favorite receivers. The Patriots defense will do just enough to keep Indy kicking field goalds, frustrating Andrew Luck to no end.

Patriots win, 37-24

(6) San Diego Chargers vs (1) Denver Broncos

Denver Broncos V San Diego ChargersLast week's AFC Wild Card playoffs were two different animals with the San Diego Chargers working a perfect game plan in the driving rain to dominate the Cincinatti Bengals, and the Indianapolis Colts executing a comeback for the ages to beat the Kansas City Chiefs in miraculous fashion.

The Chargers are on an amazing five-game win streak, and they capitalized last week on major mistakes from Bengals QB Andy Dalton. Unfortunately for the Chargers, Peyton Manning is no Andy Dalton.

Rather than coming into this game with a history of choking in huge games, Manning will be taking the snaps as one of the most experienced and talented veteran quarterbacks in the league. He has a Super Bowl ring, and he has one of the best offensive supporting casts in Denver that he's ever had the pleasure of working with before in the NFL.

This game might not live up to all expectations of Chargers fans, despite their team posting the most one-sided win of all the games played in the NFL last weekend. Peyton Manning is not going to fumble and throw two interceptions with everything on the line.

It will only take two wins to get in to another Super Bowl for Manning. He's a guy who was literally born for this. The first win has to come against the challenging Chargers.

Peyton Manning is an athlete who has very few weak points. Of all the teams and formidable offenses out there he has concerns about, San Diego's is not on the list.

Tom Brady and the Patriots showed an uncanny ability to frustrate and outmaneuver Manning over the years in key games, but the Chargers have no dominant history against the Broncos to speak of.

The Patriots already beat Manning's team earlier in the year by a field goal, but the Chargers will be lucky to string together a few field goals against the home team on Sunday at 4:40 p.m. from Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver (televised on CBS).

Prediction: Phillip Rivers is not a quarterback who keeps Peyton Manning up at night wondering how he'll put together a better game than his counterpart. All of Denver's numbers this year dwarf San Diego's on offense. It will be up to the San Diego defense to have the game of a lifetime to stop the attack Manning's offense can bring with a healthy Knowshon Moreno in the backfield and a rested and ready receiver core featuring one of the best tandems in the NFL this year in Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker. Those three offensive juggernauts account for 35 combined touchdowns and over 3,700 yards from scrimmage. The top rusher and top two receivers for San Diego have over 500 yards less and only 18 total touchdowns on the season. Statistically, this game is a wash. It's the easiest game to call on paper. Manning has a career playoff day and wipes the Chargers from the playoff map.

Broncos win, 48-12


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